5 Time-Saving Meal Prep Hacks You Should Know About

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When you’re just starting out, meal prep can seem time consuming, difficult and tedious. But, this doesn’t have to be the case! When done well (with a plan and a strategy) meal prepping can be efficient, effective and actually save you a bunch of time throughout the week. It can also help you hit your health goals and encourage consistency in your nutrition and dietary choices. Double win!

So how do you master meal prep? Here are five meal prep hacks to make your Sunday (prep) session a breeze.

1. Set Aside Time Each Week and Make It Non-Negotiable

Find an hour or two in your week where you can commit to meal prep, without fail. Sunday afternoon is a popular option as it sets you up to start the working week strong! Whatever works for you, just make sure to commit this allocated time to meal prep every week. 

Add it to your schedule and start to think of it like a work meeting — you wouldn’t bail on a work commitment, so don’t bail on this commitment to yourself and your health! Remember, while two hours of prep may sound like a lot of time, the time you’ll save throughout the week will make it worth the sacrifice.

2. Get Organised

Organisation is the key to successful meal prep. Before your allocated weekly meal prep session, take the time to assess your schedule for the week, and plan your meals accordingly. If you have a super busy week ahead, you might choose to prep lunches and dinners. On a quieter week, you might only opt for prepping lunches.

Once you’ve assessed your weekly commitments, decide which recipes or meals you’re going to make for the week. Write a shopping list with all the ingredients you’ll need, and hit the shops. 

Here’s my number one tip — never go shopping without a shopping list. Attempting to invent your weekly menu as you stroll the aisles is a recipe for disaster! Planning is key. Not only will it save you time (and money), but you know you’ll have everything you need when you get home and dive into your meal prep. Plus, it’ll save you running to the supermarket to pick up things you missed along the way.

3. Prep Ingredients Over Meals

We’ve all been there: You prepped five portions of a meal to last through the week, only to become extremely sick of eating the same thing by day three. How do you overcome this problem? Prep ingredients instead of complete meals!

When you’re planning out your weekly meals and shopping list, think about the key ingredients you want to prepare. Try to choose:

  • A key source of protein: Chicken, meat, boiled eggs, tinned tuna or salmon, legumes, tofu and tempeh are all great options.
  • Some vegetables you love: Roast veggies like sweet potato, pumpkin, eggplant, carrots and beetroot are fantastic choices and last well throughout the week. Roast up a big batch to add to different meals throughout the week.
  • A grain or carbohydrate source: Rice, pasta, barley and quinoa are some good ideas to get you started. Prep a big batch, and use your grain in a variety of different meals.

4. Make the Most of Flavour!

Now you’ve prepped the key components of your dish, use flavour to vary your meals and avoid getting bored of eating the same thing over and over. Herbs, spices, sauces and marinades are your best friends when it comes to meal prep! Use these to your advantage to give your pre-prepared ingredients a different twist each time.

For example, if you’ve prepped a batch of turkey or beef mince as your protein, a heap of roast veg and some pasta, using flavour to create different dishes across the week could look something like this:

  • Monday: Pasta bolognese. Use tomato puree and herbs to turn the mince into a bolognese sauce.
  • Tuesday: Burrito bowls. Add the mince and pasta to a bowl with some roast veg, and throw some salsa, jalapenos and fresh herbs on top for a delicious bowl.
  • Wednesday: Pasta bake. Bake a tray of pasta topped with the mince, some veg, and a cheesy and creamy or tomato-based sauce incorporating a bunch of different herbs for a hit of flavour.
  • Thursday: Chilli. Add beans, tomato puree or diced tomatoes, a bunch of herbs and spices to your mince, and serve on top of your leftover pasta.
  • Friday: Lemongrass and chilli lettuce cups. Add lemongrass, chilli, lime and fresh herbs to your mince and serve in lettuce cups, with a side of leftover veg.

There you have it — a number of super easy ways to vary your meals using the same core pre-prepared ingredients!

Another way of changing it up throughout the week is prepping four to five portions of one recipe you really love and freezing two to three of them (portioning them into individual containers when you do so). When it gets to midway through the week and you’ve inevitably had enough of the same meal, pick out one of your other frozen meals from the freezer (cooked on a previous week), so you’re mixing it up!

Make sure you’re prepping enough high-quality food to fuel your workouts each day! While you’re at it, sign up for a FREE 5 day trial with Fitness First, so you can get started on putting yourself first with your nutrition and fitness, all at once!

5. Don’t Forget Snacks

Meal prepping snacks is also really helpful when it comes to saving time during the week. This can be super simple and quick — think about boiling some eggs, whipping up some easy protein balls or a no-bake slice, or even chopping up some veggie sticks to enjoy with hummus.

Snacks are often the thing that leads to poor nutrition choices when you’re short on time. If you haven’t prepped them in advance, it becomes all too easy to reach for the nearest chocolate bar or sugary dried fruit and nut mix. Take an extra 10 minutes to prepare some snacks and keep your body fuelled and energised throughout the day.

Remember, meal prep looks different for everyone and doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking each week. Even managing to plan your meals for the week and doing one big grocery shop, or cutting up veggies in advance so they’re ready to throw into a pan when the time comes is a win. These small efforts will save you an abundance of time during the week, when life inevitably gets hectic, and your inclination to cook or come up with a healthy meal idea goes out the window!

Happy cooking.

Want more nutrition and health hacks and tips? Visit the Fitness First blog for advice on how to eat and exercise your way to good health! Put yourself first today.

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